Younger me, you need to stop comparing yourself to other writers.
I’ve done this since I was a child, really. I first became a “serious” writer at the age of eleven when Christopher Paolini’s Eragon came out, which revealed to me the distinct possibility that, should I just try hard enough, I’d become a writer before graduating high school.
I missed that goal post.
Well, fine, whatever. I set a new goalpost for myself, based on the success of writers I look up to in various mediums. I have watched those goals come, and…I wave at them as they pass by.
This is the typical behavior of a writer looking for validation. We look toward the successes of others, and expect that, should we hit this age mark, that we’ll find our success. That at the age of 20 (Mary Shelley) or 25 (Dostoevsky) that we’ll become successes.
Or it gets even worse. Terry Goodkind, international best selling fantasy author (whose books are all awful) got himself an agent after weeks of querying. His overwritten trite found a die-hard audience, so maybe he was onto something, even if his writing is and always will be hot, burning garbage.
But comparing yourself to other writers is not a key to success, younger me. You need to cut that shit and just focus on yourself.
The thing is every writer seems to have deep and profound insecurities about their own work. I’m a big fan of comics, so I follow a lot of younger artists and writers in the comic industry online (creepily stalking in the shadows, waiting for senpai to notice me…). As such, I see a lot of them post comics online as free-thought rants about their own insecurities as creators, about them comparing themselves to other creators. Even though I see them as the goal posts to reach, they too feel like they’re behind. So the cycle never ends. Even if I were to be successful, I’d still be chasing coat tails with this mindset.
And that isn’t to say that you aren’t successful if you’re comparing yourself to other writers. What I’m saying is that, by comparing yourself to successes, you miss out on bettering yourself as a creator. J.K. Rowling published Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone when she was in her early thirties. Other writers like Bram Stoker and J.R.R. Tolkein had earlier successes, but didn’t become famous writers until later on in their lives.
The point is that there is no age goal post out there, no “end date” until you drop dead. So focus on bettering yourself now instead of running yourself into the grave from stress. I dunno. We’ll see how that goes.